Common Witchhazel - Hamamelis virginiana
Witchhazel Family (Hamamelidaceae)
- Native habitat: Canada south to Georgia, west to Arkansas and Nebraska.
- Growth habit: Large shrub or small tree with large, spreading branches that form a rounded crown.
- Tree size: 20 to 30 feet tall with a 15- to 20-foot spread.
- Flower and fruit: Flowers are fragrant and have four yellow, ribbon-like petals. Flowers are borne in November and are effective for 2 to 4 weeks. Fruit is a ½-inch-long capsule. Seeds are discharged one year after flowering.
- Leaf: Alternate, simple leaves are 3 to 6 inches long. They are medium green in summer. Fall color is yellow and can be excellent.
- Hardiness: Winter hardy to USDA Zone 3.
The common name witchhazel comes from an old English word that means "to bend." European species of Hamamelis were once used as divining rods to search for water. Witchhazel bark has been mixed with water and alcohol to make an astringent for sores and bruises. Tannins found in the bark have also been used to treat hemorrhoids and in eye medications. Witchhazel extract has been used in after-shave lotion. The bark of witchhazel is light brown and thin. It peels off to reveal a reddish purple inner bark.